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A Distant Episode: The Selected Stories

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  297 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
A Distant Episode contains the best of Paul Bowles's short stories, as selected by the author. An American cult figure, Bowles has fascinated such disparate talents as Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, Truman Capote, William S. Burroughs, Gore Vidal, and Jay McInerney.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1992)
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Tim Weed
Dec 08, 2013 Tim Weed rated it it was amazing
Upon finishing The Sheltering Sky, I was reluctant to leave Bowles’ deeply engaging northern Africa behind, so I read his story, “A Distant Episode,” thinking I would take advantage of the opportunity to contemplate the differences between short stories and novels. It was a good call, I believe, because the story is a reprisal of a plot line present in the novel: a traumatized foreigner is captured by sinister nomads and transported into an exotic desert world, losing her/his identity for a long ...more
Jan 09, 2009 Gloss rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer, short_fiction
Bowles is dry and mean as bone; these stories are extraordinary, and upsetting, and really pretty amazing. "Pages from Cold Point" is, hands down, the most upsetting story I've ever read. In a fiction workshop back in NYC, I brought it to class when it was my week to choose the selection.
Dec 11, 2008 Thomas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
One of the great and often overlooked American writers, particularly of short stories. Bowles spent most of his adult life outside the United States, much of it in Muslim north Africa, and many of these tales depict the clash of the western "colonial" with the native cultures of Africa and Central America. His use of violence is almost biblical -- it just happens in nature's course, as a function of God and humanity, and his narrative tone is completely disinterested. Fascinating, searing stuff.
Jeremy Adam
Dec 21, 2008 Jeremy Adam rated it it was amazing
About halfway through this short story collection, the roots of Paul Bowles's brilliance hit me: He always knows right from the beginning what he wants to say with a story. Or, maybe it's more accurate to say that when he encounters or imagines a story, he unerringly understands what that story has to say to the universe. As a result, his short stories are little meaning machines.
Nov 01, 2011 Geoff rated it really liked it
Shelves: fully-reviewed
Previously cynical of the short story form; thinking nothing of any real depth or power could be formed within them; thinking they could be little more than entertainment for the attention-deficient.

How wrong I was. In capable hands and compiled thoughtfully, a - well, this - collection of stories is a pure joy that reflects and meditates on the human condition as well as any novel might.

The writer invites us to share in the lives of the dispossed, the possessed and those who possess, in equal
Jul 10, 2014 Brenda rated it liked it
Discovered this author through the book, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, which I recommend for a great listing of 'must reads'. My favorite story within this volume was The EYE. Be warned, Bowles writes stories of distant lands full of not-so-nice inhabitants. Violent, sometimes subtle and sometimes graphic, these stories pack a punch. Solid literature.
Mar 30, 2016 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
There is a similarity to Bowles' stories: a descent by its characters to doom of some sort, usually in an exotic Latin American or Saharan locale. I haven't finished it, and will probably come back to it later, but the Library wants it back for now. I read up to "Mejdoub".
Time to reread. It has Sheltering Sky, wow
Jul 06, 2007 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shortstories
Short stories from an author I'd never heard much about, but who's said to have influenced a number of my favorite writers.

Bowles himself writes that he attempted to write about places (you know, geographical) and let characters just emerge from them. I think that's exactly how his stories read. You felt like the people in them weren't much more than figures in the landscapes. It's a dark, exotic book and ought to be more of a cult classic, says I.
Austen to Zafón
Bowles spent most of his life living in other countries, mostly Central America and North Africa. His stories often take place in those places and are about how being in the wrong place at the wrong time, misunderstanding the culture, and/or distrusting your own intuition can get you into some disturbing situations. If you like Patricia Highsmith (another of my favorites), you'll like Bowles.
May 13, 2015 Vidia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Los tres primeros relatos son tremendos, terribles, crueles... me dolió la guata leerlos y me duele cuando me acuerdo. Los demás textos son crónicas sobre sus viajes, muy parecidas a otras cosas que he leído de Bowles. La pluma maravillosa, nada que decir.
Nils Samuels
Jul 13, 2007 Nils Samuels rated it it was amazing
The distinctive, dark style to Bowles's stories make them feel like no one else's. The twisted emotions that they explore and generate have stayed with me for twenty years. Recommended to those displaced from home, wherever that home may be.
life form
Sep 09, 2008 life form rated it it was amazing

Laura Jennings
Sep 20, 2008 Laura Jennings rated it it was amazing
This is a book of short stories that was chosen for unusual narrative and perspective. Bowles writes from a very un-Caucasian point of view about westerners out of their element in cultures they don’t understand.
Oct 31, 2007 Gabrielle rated it it was amazing
Some awesome bizarro stories in this collection. If you can figure out what happens between father and son in the bed scene in 'Pages from Cold Point,' please let me know. Does what I think happens, happen?
Aug 16, 2007 Corinne rated it it was amazing
This book has been a staple of my library for years. I pick it up every so often to reacquaint myself with it's beauty and wonder. It is of the best short story collections I've read.
Colin Hinde
Feb 06, 2008 Colin Hinde rated it really liked it
Mostly dark stories, often involving foreigners suffering in Morocco. very interesting stuff, but can be depressing to read more than one at a time.
Lisa Albrecht
Mar 17, 2012 Lisa Albrecht rated it really liked it
I read "Malika" last night. So poignant when she shows up in her 'new' old village in blue jeans. Love Bowles.
Jun 12, 2008 Kevin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Used to rave about this but couldn't get any of my friends to read him. Glad to see other fans!
Sep 04, 2012 Jana rated it really liked it
Like of all of Paul Bowles Books, I find them intriguing, other worldly and engaging.
Apr 15, 2014 Bob rated it really liked it
Some of the most unusual short stories I've ever read. Dark, dark.
Fritz Misteli
Jan 25, 2008 Fritz Misteli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
short fiction. a bit raw
Aug 03, 2012 Bpaul rated it really liked it
Weird. Well done.
Dec 23, 2008 Emre added it
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Excruciating dramatic tension in a short fiction masterpiece 3 2 Dec 08, 2013 12:11PM  
  • How They Were Found
  • My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
  • Da Vinci's Bicycle
  • Selected Stories
  • Oh Baby: Flash Fictions and Prose Poetry
  • The Complete Stories
  • The Floating Order
  • In the Devil's Territory
  • Tornado Alley
  • Escapes
  • Anti-Story: An Anthology of Experimental Fiction
  • Believers: A novella and stories
  • Stalking the Nightmare
  • Normally Special
  • Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories
  • Accessible Love Stories
  • Tongue Party
  • The Stories (So Far)
Paul Bowles grew up in New York, and attended college at the University of Virginia before traveling to Paris, where became a part of Gertrude Stein's literary and artistic circle. Following her advice, he took his first trip to Tangiers in 1931 with his friend, composer Aaron Copeland.

In 1938 he married author and playwright Jane Auer (see: Jane Bowles). He moved to Tangiers permanently in 1947,
More about Paul Bowles...

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